What are you reading?

Up in my attic someplace are two very old books of poetry – A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson, and another I’ve forgotten the title of, quite small and very ragged. I remember my mother reading to me from them, which was my first introduction to reading. I learned how to read at an early age, and it remains a passion today.

Loved My Weekly Reader back in the day

Growing up I was always the second fastest reader in my class – Candy Beach (her real name) was always faster than I was, and I could never beat her. One of my favorite times of year was when our classroom got to place orders for books that we could select from a list. I’d excitedly bring the “catalog” home, and wheedle and cajole some money for my mom to buy as many books as possible. A few weeks later they’d come and be distributed, and a couple of days after that, I’d have read them all. I guess that’s about when I started going to our local library to check out books (check out my blog post on my history with libraries here if you haven’t read it).

My home library, a shadow of its former glory

Even back in grade school, I’d find an author I liked, and read everything they wrote – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (primarily Sherlock Holmes), Edgar Allen Poe, Zane Gray were just a few. I’d go over to Jimmy D’s house, we’d both sit and read for a couple of hours, then I’d go home. I was incredibly fortunate in high school to have an English teacher who would start out every class reading an excerpt from a book, where I got introduced to The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone, which opened up a whole new world to me. And then there was Foydor Dostoyevsky – deep, dark brooding books that suited my teenage angst to a T. Oh, and can’t forget Hemmingway!

Perfect timing to read this book, for many reasons

Dozens of years and authors later, I’m still at it. Mark Twain remains one of my favorites, and I think Pat Conroy (Prince of Tides and many more) was America’s greatest novelist. Okay, I could go on forever about amazing, even life-changing books I have read, but I won’t (at least, not now). Here is what I am reading now: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It is primarily set in Bogota, Columbia, from the late 1899’s to around 1930. The title has always fascinated me, and this just seemed like a perfect time to read it. While historical novels have never been high on my list of favorite reads, I love the use of language and descriptive prose detailing granular details of both the physical and social environment of the times. 

Bet I wish I’d read this last year…

Next up, when I finish this is The Next Human Die Off (and how to prepare for it) by Robert Chapman. While the premise seems to be based on collapse of sufficient food production that leads to mass starvation, it also addresses plagues. Yeah, sounds a bit dark, but fascinating like looky-loos going past a car wreck. I might need something lighter when I finish it – so, back to my question, What are YOU reading? Please share your recommendations in the comments!

How I Got FREE UNLIMITED BOOKS, and other Senior Deals!!

How? I joined our local library. But wait, that’s not the end of the story! For me, it all starts about April 1, 1959, when the brand-new Hollywood Library opened in Portland, OR. I was a whole 8 ½ years old, but it was in easy reach when I got my Schwinn bicycle. Exploring the shelves, doing high school homework there to escape the chaos of four younger siblings in the house,  reading, reading, always reading. I loved that library! 

Fast forward a few years, and I found myself working at Multnomah County Library Central branch, built about 1913. What a beautiful building! Working behind the scenes, in the book stacks, in the A/V area, getting the microscopic staff elevator stuck between floors, playing Mille Borne at lunch – and the selection of books was AMAZING! Great memories of an amazing place.

Years later I moved to Bellingham, WA, and found I could walk to the library during my lunch hour, select a half-dozen books, walk back, and still have time to wolf down my brown-bag lunch! I did that for 20 years, when I got another job about 30 miles south, and then eventually moved to Skagit County. Ironically enough, not too long after that, I found a new position back in Bellingham, but with 30 minutes for lunch, and a lot longer distance, library visits became a thing of the past. Yeah, I discovered Amazon books, and the bookshelves at Costco, but it wasn’t the same. I made a list of things I wanted to do once I retired, and getting set up at our local library was one of them.  

We live in a small town, about 12,000 souls, so I wasn’t expecting much, but I had to check it out. It turned out to be reasonably larger than expected, and had some unexpected bonuses! Movies on DVD by the hundreds! All those movies I never had time to watch before, now at my fingertips – going to be great when the winter rains come, and drive me inside. Narrated books on CD by the dozens and dozens! We are planning a couple of major road trips, and these are so much fun, haven’t listened to them in years. 

But wait, there’s more! Free access to Lynda.com, which offers classes in photography, writing, computer programming and more! Hoopla, where I can instantly borrow digital movies, music, eBooks and more! Freegal, free access to 15 million songs! I can go to several genealogical sites, travel info sites, American food culture sites, and language learning software! Yeah, I’m excited about all the possibilities.

Next stop was the Senior Center, right across the parking lot from the library. Also free, but …. I may wait a few years to avail myself of their offerings. One (well, two to be technical) more stops to check out something I read about in my Medicare supplement information, Silver Sneakers (or for some, Silver and Fit). 

I try to keep fit, using an elliptical exercise machine, exercise ball and elastic band, and dumbbells, but I feel like I need help targeting flexibility, balance, and proactive anti-sciatica exercises. I checked it out, and found there are two gyms  – one a mile away, and a much larger sister facility about 12 miles away. Guess what! It’s free!! OK, I will have to pay a personal trainer once for a workout tailored to my exact needs, but I’m excited about the potential. Zumba Gold, tailored for the (ahem) “active older participant,” SilverSneakers for 65+ members, and once I get really toned (I hope) fast-moving PiYo that combines pilates with Yoga.

And my wife is excited about Aqua Pilates. Me, not so much, but I told her I’d be willing to get in a swimsuit if she would. 

I’m enjoying the heck out of this summer, going on lots of fabulous hikes in our beautiful North Cascades, keeping our yard in the best shape it’s ever been in, connecting with friends, neighbors and family, but I know our summers are short up here in the northwest. So when those infamous winter rains set in, if you can’t find me at the gym, there’s a really good chance you’ll find me at  the library.